SOUTH KOREAN CHURCH HOLDS DAILY SERVICES TO MEET DEMAND FOR PRAYER
For one church in South Korea, meeting only once a week on Sundays is hardly enough. Myungsung Church in Seoul gathers for early morning prayer every day, and it’s been doing it for 35 years. In the early morning, thousands of people stream out of the downtown church passing the thousands of others who are waiting in the cold and the dark to go inside. Myungsung Church holds four early morning services on a daily basis. “Christians cannot live without faith and prayer. I believe morning prayer is God’s blessing for us. So, I am joyfully attending to the gathering, even though the church is far and it takes long,” said church elder Seon Gyoo Kim. Recently, the church celebrated 35 years of early morning prayer.
Since Rev. Samhwan Kim started the church in 1980, it has grown to more than 120,000 members. He credits that success to prayer and an unyielding commitment to historic Christian truths. “The power of the church comes from the Bible, and the tradition that we inherited from our ancestors. If we preserve those values, the world will follow us,” Kim said. Well into his 70s, Pastor Kim still leads two morning services. Myungsung Church is the largest Presbyterian church in the world. It has planted 24 churches and supports more than 500 missionaries in 63 countries. The church also supports a children’s home, a hospital and other social ministries. Pastor Kim says it’s prayer that’s made all this ministry possible.
He and his church also believe that if they ask, God will do the same for their kinsmen in North Korea. “North Korea is in despair, but at the same time, it is very hopeful in Christ. Isaiah 9 says, ‘The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.’ …I believe the light of the Gospel must come to them. We need prayer to save North Korea…God will work on them through our prayer. He must liberate the land and perform the miracle to open the way in the desert for the unification of North and South,” Kim said. North and South Korea have been separated for 65 years. Since the armistice was signed, South Korea has grown into a modern state with a booming economy.
North Korea is one of the most isolated nations on earth, ruled by a family of dictators who repress its people and threaten the world with nuclear holocaust. At Myungsung Church, the people pray passionately for reunification. Among them is a group of North Korean refugees now living in the South. Though they’re free, it’s hard to escape the grip of the totalitarian regime just across the border. Wonjoon Sung, who escaped North Korea, said, “North Korean defectors have been traumatised by the North Korean regime. We often have a nightmare of being taken to the North. Whenever I wake up in the morning, I feel the freedom, but become sorrowful thinking my family who are living perilously without freedom in the North.”
These refugees came to Christ after escaping the North, but they saw firsthand the government’s persecution of Christians. Hyejin Lim, another North Korean escapee said, “In the North, the Christians were singled out for torture. They were found because of their knees, because they have sat kneeling to pray. The Christians were separated and right away sent to other places such as concentration camps.” Still, the church in North Korea is growing. A woman named Yunsun Lee says some North Koreans who visit China are converted to Christianity by missionaries on the border. Despite the risk of imprisonment or even death, some of them return to preach the Gospel.
“After they go back to the North, they evangelize others one by one in basements, and then the new comers bring their families or friends as well. In this way, the Gospel is being spread secretly. If this comes out, whole families will be murdered. Meanwhile, those who have found safety in the South cry out for their families in the North. Wonjoon Sung said, “I pray the Gospel will enter the North so that the people there can live like decently enjoying freedom.’ I am asking God to allow this blessing for the people in the North, believing that our prayers will avail much for the people of North Korea. The church also helps support a Christian TV station in Seoul which broadcasts CBN’s “Christian World News” program in Korean to some 12 million viewers.
U.S. ARMY REFUSES TO SEND HONOUR GUARD FOR CHURCH’S INDEPENDENCE DAY CELEBRATIONS
For nearly two decades, the U.S. Army has provided an honour guard for an Independence Day celebration at a Baptist church that predates the founding of the nation. But this year—that tradition has come to an end. Officials at Fort Gordon say they will not be able to send an honour guard to a July 5th service at Abilene Baptist Church because it violates a military policy banning any involvement in a religious service. “While there are conditions under which the Army can participate in events conducted at a house of worship, we cannot participate in the context of a religious service,” Public Affairs Officer J.C. Mathews said.
He said officials at Fort Gordon as well as the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate reviewed the church’s request and determined they were in fact holding a “religious service. As a result, the Army is not permitted to take part,” Mathews said. That policy would be an offense to most churches in America—but it is especially offensive when you consider the Army refused to provide an honour guard for a church whose first pastor was a chaplain in the Revolutionary Army. Abilene Baptist Church was founded in 1774—one of Georgia’s most historic churches. The founding pastor was arrested by a colonial magistrate for “preaching in Georgia” and the first pastor, Reverend Loveless Savage, was a chaplain in the Revolutionary Army.
“It was an absolute shock,” said Brad Whitt, the current pastor of Abilene Baptist Church. “What a sad commentary on the state of affairs in America—when we cannot even allow the flags to fly if they are in a church building.” “We’ve had a tremendous working relationship with the fort,” he told me. “We’ve hosted all sorts of events for military families. We really try to show our love and respect and we try to honour our military folks.” The July 5th church service is scheduled to be a “God and Country” themed celebration with patriotic music and lots of red, white and blue. Afterwards, the church is hosting a Sunday picnic—complete with hot dogs and hamburgers.
Pastor Whitt said they were genuinely confused by the Army’s slight—seeing how Fort Gordon has been providing an honour guard for the past 20 years. “They have participated for the past two decades and now they are saying—no,” he said. “This is just another example of the secularization of America.” The church sent me photographs of the honour guard on the main platform of the church in 2007 and 2010. Last year, the church held their service in a local park—and once again—the military sent an honour guard. So what changed? Fort Gordon’s Public Affairs Office pointed to Army Regulation 360-1—dated May 2011.
The lengthy regulation states Army participation must not selectively benefit (or appear to benefit) any religious group. It also mandates that Army Public Affairs not support any event involving the promotion, endorsement or sponsorship of a religious movement. According to public affairs, the 2007 church service was designated by the military as a “non-sectarian musical and patriotic program.” According to the military’s calculations, 80 percent of the program was musical and the other 20 percent included narration and other patriotic elements. “Because this was not a religious service, our participation was permitted,” he said.
The key is not whether the event is sponsored by a religious organization or held in a house of worship. “The key is, whether or not the event is an actual religious service,” Mathews said. It’s okay to invite the troops so long as you don’t pray, talk about Jesus or read the Bible? Pastor Whitt said “This is what we’ve come to in our nation. While the Pentagon won’t allow an honour guard to set foot in a church, they have no problem allowing them to march in a gay pride parade. Last year the Department of Defence gave permission for an honour guard to participate in Washington, DC’s gay pride parade—a historic first. So if a military honour guard can celebrate gay pride in a public parade, why can’t they celebrate American pride inside a Baptist church?
WHITE HOUSE ORDERS FAITH BASED GRANT RECIPIENTS TO ACCEPT LGBT APPLICATIONS
A federal government source has indicated that the White House is quietly moving forward with a policy change that will require charitable groups to accept Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transsexual (LGBT) applicants in order to qualify for government funding, even those religious groups that might have religious objections. The policy change is linked to an executive order President Obama issued last July that prohibits federal contractors from discriminatory hiring practices based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Faith-based groups were already wrestling with that order. Things are about to get exponentially worse for faith-based groups who perform humanitarian tasks and receive not contracts but financial grants for doing so.
Though the executive order last summer was specifically related to federal procurement and contracts, it did not touch grant recipients that substantially outnumber contract recipients. However, the White House has now directed federal agencies to include the “sexual orientation and gender identity” clause in all grant agreements. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has agreed to make this change and is said to be weeks away from implementation. Federal agencies are being pressured to make this change without a subsequent executive order. The State Department legal office has advised the White House that this is not a legal matter but a matter of policy. The implication of this change would be devastating to those most in need.
Charitable organizations would have to end programs in the poorest regions of the globe if no longer eligible for government grants. One defence left to faith-based groups would be a claim under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but that would require the grant recipient to make the claim, the success of which would be far from certain. The White House has been under pressure to remove the religious exemption from the Johnson-era executive order, to include gays. Some federal agencies are hesitant to make the change but because of pressure from the White House are reluctant to say no. This change is just the latest in a series of religious liberty challenges directed at charitable organizations by the Obama administration.
Last December — on Christmas Eve — the Obama administration posted notice that charitable organizations that work with refugee children entering the United States must include sexual and reproductive health services that could include contraception and abortion. Last July, President Obama’s executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating in the hiring of persons identifying as lesbian, gays, bisexuals and transgender – did not exempt religious organizations. At the time of the announcement two Bishop-Chairmen with the U.S. Catholic Bishop’s conference immediately rebuke the order stating it was “unprecedented and extreme and should be opposed.”
COURT RULES DISABLED PATIENT CAN BE STARVED TO DEATH AGAINST HIS WILL
Vincent Lambert, a tetraplegic patient who has been in a state of minimal consciousness in hospital for six years following a car accident, is currently receiving food and water via a feeding tube. The decision to cut his intravenous food and water supply has divided his family. Lambert’s doctors and wife wanted to starve him to death while his parents, who are vehemently opposed to ending his life, took his case to court. In January 2014 a court in France ruled against starving Lambert to death. But now, the European Court of Human Rights has by a vote of 12-5, held that a State may take Lambert’s life against his will. In making this decision the European Court of Human Rights has turned human rights into an individualistic and utilitarian ideology.
Grégor Puppinck of the ELCJ, a pro-life legal group, said that the European Court of Human Rights also refused Vincent Lambert’s parents the right to complain on behalf of their son regarding the stopping of his physiotherapy care three years ago. “Thus, the Court not only held that in Europe, we can again legally induce the death of a disabled patient who did not ask to die, but in addition, it denies that patient the protection of the Convention against mistreatment. By refusing to guarantee the right to life and to medical care for Vincent Lambert, the Court is turning a page in the history of human rights in Europe,” Puppinck said.
“The Court reintroduced into European law the right to euthanize a disabled person, even though it is precisely against this ideology that the European Convention on Human Rights was proclaimed in 1950.” Puppinck said. “In 1946, during the Nuremberg trials, physicians who practiced euthanasia of disabled persons were convicted. These convictions founded contemporary medical ethics. “Now, the European Court of Human Rights has revived a fatal practice we hoped was gone in Europe. “This decision puts at risk the lives of tens of thousands of patients in Europe who are in the same situation as Vincent Lambert. The respect for their right to life is no longer guaranteed by the European Court of Human Rights,” he concluded.
“Atheists can sneer at faith all they like, but they can’t assume science is on their side.” Researcher Tom Knox, who abandoned his atheist beliefs after discovering first-hand the power of prayer. Ask most Christians and they’ll tell you “absolutely” God honours prayers for healing. Not every time, of course, but enough to combat the notion that He doesn’t. And, these same Christians will tell you that not only does God heal, but He brings joy, grace and favour into the lives of those who trust in Him, often extending their lifespan as well. More than 1,500 “reputable” medical studies now back up these claims.
Dr. Harold G. Koenig of Duke University says results from the huge number of studies on the subject “indicates people who are more religious and pray more have better mental and physical health.” “There’s a lot of evidence out there,” he adds. Researcher Tom Knox, a former atheist who became a Christian after studying the medical benefits of prayer, agrees. “Over the past 30 years,” he says, “a growing and largely unnoticed body of scientific work shows religious belief is medically, socially, and psychologically beneficial. Religious attendance is associated with adult mortality in a graded fashion. There is a seven-year difference in life expectancy between those who never attend church and those who attend weekly.”
Members of the Somali Islamic terror group al Shabaab have been dropping off leaflets in various areas of Kenya warning of future attacks on Christian schools inside the country, similar to the April 2nd massacre at Garissa University College in which almost 150 people were tragically killed. Kenyan officials are presently in the process of increasing security measures and investigating the origin of the leaflets. In the past, representatives of al Shabaab had clearly stated that their goal is to force Kenya to cease its war on Somalia’s militants. However, in the process, this group has intentionally targeted innocent Christians, waging horrific persecution that has terrorized all the residents of eastern Kenya.
Please prayerfully uphold those who are still in shock over the sudden loss of loved ones and friends killed during the horrific massacre at Garissa University. As they continue to grieve, may the reassuring presence of our Lord sustain and comfort them. May any discouragement among the Christians in Kenya be replaced with renewed devotion and spiritual fervency, increasing their resolve to persevere during these troubled times. Pray that the Lord will have mercy on the members of al Shabaab, working in their hearts and minds so that they, too, will be delivered from the “enemy of their souls.” Pray for former Muslims who have become Christians. Pray for an end to the civil war, famine, and drought which has plagued the nation since 1991.
FRANKLIN GRAHAM & OTHER CHRISTIAN LEADERS TELL SUPREME COURT ‘WE WILL OBEY GOD, NOT MAN
Some leading religious conservatives say they won’t go along with a Supreme Court ruling that would force them to violate what they call a “Biblical understanding of marriage” as the union of a man and a woman. Their open letter to the Supreme Court was published as a full-page ad in the Washington Post. The ad said that “any judicial opinion which purports to redefine marriage will constitute an unjust law.” More than 60 people signed it, including Franklin Graham, Dr. James Dobson, Hispanic evangelical leader Samuel Rodriguez, and Rev. Alveda King, the niece of Martin Luther King, Jr. They concluded by quoting the Bible, saying, “We must obey God rather than men.”